Pong and Moses: What Authors and Video Games Have in Common

A few days ago Katy and I were talking, and I started gushing about how amazing Starcraft is… like usual. Knowing she’s an English major, I put it in literary terms in how old the game is: “Starcraft is like Dickens era.”

This got me thinking about the possible expansion of this idea. Is it possible to juxtapose gaming milestones to literary achievements? What a silly question, of course it’s possible. What follows is my own timeline. I know I missed some, focused too much on others, and classified still more totally incorrectly. Feel free to chime in with your own input, and remember I have a very thick skin for criticism.

Pong and Moses: The beginning. What do they have in common: The start of religions. Moses would start a religion that would later go on vast crusades, killing countless others, and allowing billions to not only go to church, but to believe in a higher power. Pong started a craze that would allow others to recreate the crusades in bloody detail, and for thousands of nerds to attend vast LAN parties playing their gospel “Counter Strike.” The higher power? Nintendo.

Pacman and Shakespeare: These players were both for show. Pacman brought the public to arcades, and Will brought the unwashed masses to see his comedies and tragedies. We still enjoy both today, and really… who doesn’t see the parallels between “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Pacman.”

Duckhunt and Kafka: Ahh, the classic game of duckhunt. It’s very Kafka-esc to be able to aim a ray gun at ducks. And these ducks are trapped in a box. They’re trapped, and you’re god. Furthermore, that dog? You can’t even shoot him.

Final Fantasy and Tolstoy: Leon Tolstoy is known for his extremely long and intricate novel War and Peace. Final Fantasy is known for its in-depth plot and length of game. Unfortunately, nobody has finished either. So we say they’re great “masterpieces” of their respective media, and really have no idea how either ends. Because we were too busy reading Dickens and playing Duckhunt to care.

Starcraft and Dickens: Dickens supported the idea of eliminating “surplus population” and was generally a wordy and extremely descriptive sort of fellow. Not many English majors like him. Starcraft contains the Zergling and Space Marine, both of which are encouraged to be expendable in combat, and have an average battlefield life expectancy of 8 seconds. If old Charlie were here today, he’d totally dig Starcraft. Not so much the Protoss though. Unless the Protoss were killing Zerglings and Marines.

Melville and Halo: Moby Dick is hailed as a great book. And for what? It’s great if you like long boring essays about whaling in the 1850’s, and totally dig violence for no real reason. Halo is about the same. We all remember how hyped up it is… but let’s face it. The library level, like the game, is pretty boring. Everyone knows who Master Chief is, and everyone knows the line “Call me Ishmael.” But the funny thing is, you don’t know who either of those people really are.

Dick and WoW: Phillip K Dick, one of the greats in cyberpunk, wrote about futures where technology controlled us, computers spinning out of control, and virtual reality became reality. I wonder how he would feel if today people willingly pay $10/month to sit on their computer, run around killing wild pigs, and then having an online “party” where the attendees can dance and experience being intoxicated in stunning virtual reality. We are slaves to Blizzard Entertainment the machine.

Geisel and Mario: Theodor Seuss Geisel (or Dr. Seuss), wrote books renowned and loved the world over. With simple plots, amusing and somewhat trancelike graphics, and his everlasting popularity… Geisel is the literary world version of Mario. This Italian plumber is known for his goofy graphics, forever loved characters, and have spawned countless games. Who can forget Cat-In-The-Hat? Nobody, that’s who. Even Mario knows who this mystery cat is.

Parting Thought: Did I miss something? Disagree with what I said? Have some suggestions? I welcome comments… this is a work in progress.

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